Last chance to have your say on Arran ward shake-up

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Time is running out for people to have their say on the review of electoral arrangements in the North Ayrshire Council area.

A public consultation ends later this month which recommended that Arran is turned into a single member stand-alone ward.

The combined Ardrossan and Arran ward presently has three councillors, Conservative Timothy Billings, and the SNP’s Ellen McMaster and Tony Gurney, but it is only by coincidence that two of them live on Arran.

However, while moving Arran to a single ward is seen as a positive development, there is an argument, not shared by everyone, that it would be better served by two councillors as considered in the shake-up.

The Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland’s public consultation on proposals for councillor numbers and ward boundaries in North Ayrshire council area closes in less than three weeks’ time, on Tuesday January 26.

Ronnie Hinds, chair of the commission, said: ‘Since the consultation began on November 4 we have received a number of responses offering helpful suggestions. As we enter the final three weeks, I’d encourage members of the public, community groups, and other local bodies to look at the proposals and submit their views, whether they support or oppose our proposals, before the deadline.’

The commission conducted a consultation on its proposals with North Ayrshire Council from July to September last year and is now conducting a 12-week public consultation.

The proposals for public consultation in North Ayrshire recommend 33 councillors, across nine wards. The commission wants members of the public and communities to give them their comments on the proposals so all views can be considered as the commission develops its final recommendations for Scottish ministers.

The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 allows the use of one or two-member wards, in addition to the existing three and four-member wards, where a ward includes an inhabited island. The recently introduced Scottish Elections (Reform) Act 2020 has also allowed the consideration of mainland wards of between two and five members.

The recommendations are expected, if accepted, to be in place for the next local government elections in May 2022.

The proposals for North Ayrshire Council present an electoral arrangement for 33 councillors representing one single-member ward, three three-member wards, two four-member wards and three five-member wards, retaining the existing number of councillors, and reducing the number of wards from 10 to nine. The proposals also follow council’s locality boundaries, which take account of geography, local ties and communities.

Mr Hinds said: ‘We have taken account of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 and present a single member Arran ward reflecting its island status.

‘We considered the case for a two-member Arran ward but concluded that the special geographic circumstances of Arran did not justify a forecast variation from parity of -39 per cent.

‘An alternative would have been to retain the link between Arran and the mainland but this did not seem to us to recognise the importance of Arran’s island communities in light of the Islands (Scotland) Act.

‘We have taken account of the Scottish Elections (Reform) Act that allow the use of two-member and five-member wards to design three five-member wards that better reflect local ties in the Garnock Valley, North Coast and Three Towns. Ardrossan is placed within a single ward.’